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How to manually install apps and APK files on your Android device


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If you have an Android phone, you’ve probably downloaded an Android app before. Just go to the Play Store, find what you want, and tap install. Easy, right?

That’s definitely the simplest way to grab apps for your phone, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not always the best way. Android, much like a Windows computer, will let you install pretty much anything with APK files. Think of APK files like packages for an Android app; if you have the APK, you can get the app installed on your phone. If the latest version from the Play Store keeps crashing, maybe you want a version from a month ago that actually works. And sometimes apps get pulled from the Play Store, so you can’t download them even if you want them! That’s where manually installing an APK comes in handy.

It doesn’t have to be difficult, either. Just follow our guide and we’ll get you started.

There are many ways to find an APK, with the most popular option being through APK Mirror. Downloading APK files can be risky business, as you don’t necessarily know what the file contains; however, APK Mirror is probably the safest destination for downloading an APK. They host tons and tons of popular Android apps that can be installed individually, as well as some Google Play updates. If you’ve ever seen an article about newer features coming from a Play Services update but you didn’t want to wait it out, you might have already tried searching around to get the update before the rollout hit your phone.

There are other sites that host Android APKs, too, but you really do need to be careful about what you’re downloading. APK Mirror is a reputable site that monitors the files it hosts to verify that they’re not going to install a ton of malware on your phone, but not all sites will go to the same lengths, especially if they’re looking to get a backdoor on your phone.

You can browse the site and download any APK you want. But, before we can install it, you’ll need to make sure that your phone has permission to install third-party apps. You can make sure this is checked under the “Security” tab or listing within your Settings menu. Normally it’ll say allow third-party installations or install from unknown sources, but some newer phones and versions of Android are a little more granular. You’ll have to pick which apps are allowed to install unknown sources, which is generally going to be your preferred browser app. We’re using Samsung Internet, but Chrome is going to be another popular option that you’ll need to set up here.

You’ll also notice any other apps that are able to install files on your phone from here, so now isn’t a bad time to glance over everything and make sure it’s all above water. The AMC Theaters app, for example, potentially has the permission to install outside apps, but why would a movie theater need to do that? Check things like that, and make sure you don’t see anything sketchy.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to find the file and open it to start the install process. Many phones come with file managers that should make this pretty easy, even giving you quick access to the downloads folder of your internal storage. If you don’t have one or just want to use something else, there are plenty of file managers available on the Play Store as well. If you go the file manager route, you might need to back up to the previous step and verify that it’s able to install apps from third-party sources, however.

You should also see a notification right after downloading an APK file, and simply tapping that notification should start the process, prompting you for permission to install. That’s the quickest way to do things, assuming you can catch the download after it finishes but before you clear out your notifications or something similar.

And that’s all there is to it! The app will run its installation process and then show up in your app drawer with your other apps, with just a few catches. If you’re trying to downgrade an app you’re going to want to uninstall the newer version first, but otherwise, everything should be normal.

It’s a handy trick to have in your pocket, whether you’re just testing out unreleased apps or you’re troubleshooting a problem on a phone. You’ll also have to follow this process to install stuff like Fortnite on your phone since it’s not listed on the Play Store on its own. It also works for third-party app stores, which would then be able to function like a Google Play alternative if you’re going for a Google-less approach to your smartphone.

As always, be smart with what you download.

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